Car bargain of the 21st century? Probably.
Far from being spartan, the entry-level version offers plenty of features, including 15” steel wheels, power assisted steering, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and even daytime running lights. There’s also pre-wiring for an accessory fit radio and speaker system too, which will be available to buy through official Dacia Retailers.
It also packs plenty of safety features. Among them are ABS with Emergency Brake Assist, ASR traction control, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), driver, passenger and front side airbags and ISOFIX points in both outer rear seats.
Its stylish too. Available in white, its chunky five-door bodystyle is complemented well by its contrasting black bumpers, door mirrors and handles. The inside is nice as well, and marks a clear step forward for the brand in terms of design quality. The newest Dacia offers cloth ‘Element’ upholstery, combined with a smart, modern interior.
And don’t forget, it’s practical as well. Underneath its contemporary styling is one of the biggest boots in its class, at 320 litres to be exact. Or, a cavernous 1,200 litres with the rear seats down. Plenty big enough for the kitchen sink. Or, perhaps more likely, to swallow the weekly shop, a child buggy or the odd set of golf clubs.
For only £600 more, the mid-level Ambiance profers such niceties as radio CD player with fingertip remote controls, USB and AUX input, Bluetooth™, remote central locking, electric front windows, body coloured bumpers and 15” ‘Colorado’ wheel trims. Befitting its name, trading up to this version also brings with it some plush interior touches such as chrome surrounds for the air vents, instrument dials and steering wheel logo.
The top-of-the-range Sandero versions are called Lauréate. Dacia expects up to two thirds of buyers to plump for them. With three available, starting from only £7,995, just £2,000 more than the entry version, it’s not hard to see why.
Probably scaring the competition half to death, the range-topper not only looks great inside and out, it also comes fully loaded with equipment. With air conditioning, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, cruise control and electric rear windows as standard. In this guise, Sandero really does offer big car features for small car prices. There’s even an optional fully-integrated 7-inch touchscreen navigation and multimedia system for just £250 – little more than a handheld device from Halfords.
The flagship trim level quite simply offers all the kit you’re ever likely to need, at prices usually reserved for the smallest of city cars. Unless you happen to live in the middle of nowhere of course and there’s a seriously nasty winter in store. In which case, Dacia has the perfect answer up its sleeve. An all-road version of its larger sibling, Duster. Unsurprisingly, they’re not bad value either, with 4x4 versions starting at a smidgeon under £11,000.
The kit count rises even more with height adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel, leather steering wheel and gearknob and an upgraded radio CD player with MP3 CD reader and fingertip remote controls and four speakers.
On top of all these goodies, it also has a trip computer. No doubt that’ll come in handy when it comes to seeing just how little fuel your wallet-friendly hatchback is sipping each week. And, for those heady moments when the power of the latest Dacia engines might be about to catch you unawares, there’s even a speed limiter.
The feel of the interior is also more upmarket with a graphite look finish for the centre console surround, front door handles and steering wheel lower insert.
Its modern looks are also made even sharper with 15” ‘Kalahari’ wheel trims, chrome front grille, front fog lights and body-coloured door handles and door mirrors.
Not only will Sandero be affordable to buy, it’ll also be economical to run. Powering the second model to join the Dacia fray for the brand’s UK launch in January are a choice of three frugal engines. The first, the 1.2 16V 75, one of the Renault Group’s most tried and tested engines, is on offer with every trim level. The even more frugal, yet powerful, TCe 90 and dCi 90, can be had with both Ambiance and Lauréate.
Proving that modern-day motoring can be inexpensive, the four-cylinder 1.2 petrol delivers 47.9 mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 137g/km, enough for road tax band E. That means road tax of only £10 per month.
The second engine for Dacia’s new supermini is the TCe 90. Its new to the brand after debuting in the Renault Clio with the added bonus of Stop&Start technology. In Sandero, the 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit is capable of 109 mph, with fuel economy of 54.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 120 g/km. That adds up to just £30 in road tax every year, with absolutely zero to pay in the first.
Rounding off the series of modern engines is the new dCi 90. Belying it’s 1.5-litre diesel size, it delivers 74.3 mpg and sub-100 grams of CO2 per kilometre emissions. In other words, you don’t owe the taxman a penny when it comes to road fund licence, plus, London drivers will be able to dodge the Congestion Charge.
The two top engines also boast gearshift indicators and an ECO mode to limit engine torque, both to help you eek the most out of your tank – by 10% - and save you valuable pennies at the pumps. They’ll also no doubt help you do your bit for the environment too.
The pièce de résistance? A touchscreen multimedia system. In a Dacia. Who’d have thought it. The 7-inch MediaNav is available as an option on the flagship Lauréate for just £250 including VAT. Packing an AM/FM/LW radio, satellite navigation, USB and AUX connectivity, Bluetooth and even steering column-mounted fingertip controls, it’s arguably the most comprehensive and best value car manufacturer system of its kind on the market.
For customers who really want to push the boat out, especially if it’s their first new car ever, there’s one luxury option that’s sure to catch the eye. Leather upholstery. Yet another option that you’d be hard pressed to have ever imagined appearing on a so-called value brand’s price list just a few years ago. Once more, Dacia makes it more affordable than ever, at just £600, it can be specified on Lauréate.
Two other popular options are likely to be metallic paint at £470 and 15-inch ‘Sahara’ alloy wheels for £425, both available for Ambiance and Laureate. Access are available exclusively in white, with the other two trim levels able to be specified in one of five metallic shades: Cinder Red, Mercury, Pearl Black, Sargasso Blue and Stone.
Being a Dacia, they haven’t forgotten accessories either. Whichever Sandero they opt for, two Packs can be added at order time. The first, Protection Pack, costs £395, including an alarm, boot liner and rear parking sensors. Combined, they should offer added protection, whether it comes in the form of an opportunist thief, mud-covered four-legged friend or even a pesky supermarket car park post.
The second, Touring Pack, is ideal for getting away from it all. And hopefully, after making a substantial saving upfront, they’ll be plenty left in the pot for frequent breaks. The three items in the aptly named ensemble are front centre armrest, boot luggage net and transversal roof bars, for £850.
How does Dacia manage to make, let alone sell, such a temptingly priced car and still make a profit? Quite simply, by making an enemy of the unnecessary. Over the last few years, Dacia’s engineering team have worked out how even the simplest idea can lead to a few pennies being saved. Right down to using the same windows on every car in the range, it all helps shave even more off prices for the hard-pressed car buyer.
But don’t think for a second that just because it’s incredibly affordable, that it won’t stand the test of time, or, that it’s using engines and technology from many moons ago. It’s not. Firstly, Dacia is renowned for its quality and reliability. After all, its models are designed, engineered and built to cope with the rough stuff and weather extremes everywhere from Brazil to Russia. It recently came top in a survey of 30,000 customers in five Western European markets, as Europe’s most reliable car brand. Secondly, thanks to its parent company, Renault, it also has access to the latest powertrains and bits of kit.
It even comes with a competitive warranty. 3 years/60,000 miles to be exact. And 3 years/60,000 miles free roadside assistance to boot. If you want even more peace of mind, 5 year/60,000 miles and 7 year/100,000 miles upgrades are available, costing just £395 and £850.
To find your closest Dacia Retailer, click here, or to receive a brochure when available, click here.
*UK’s most affordable new car to buy, based on manufacturer recommended retail prices (15th October 2012)